Official: 1 Death Linked to Legionnaires’ Disease in Atlanta

By The Associated Press

ATLANTA—The Georgia Department of Public Health has confirmed one death linked to a Legionnaires’ outbreak at an Atlanta hotel.

News outlets report 49-year-old Cameo Garrett died July 9 of coronary artery disease aggravated by Legionella. DeKalb County Medical Examiner Pat Bailey said on Tuesday, Aug. 6, that Garrett had Legionnaires’ disease when she died.

Garrett stayed at Sheraton Atlanta for a conference. Health officials say Garrett’s was one of 12 lab-confirmed Legionnaires’ cases and there are 61 probable cases. The source hasn’t been determined.

The respiratory disease is caused by inhaling Legionella bacteria, which is found in soil and grows in water, such as air-conditioning ducts, storage tanks and rivers. Symptoms include fever, fatigue and coughing.

The hotel has been closed since mid-July.

Thousands Infected Each Year

About one in 10 people who get sick from Legionnaires’ disease will die, a recent government report found.

The disease infects an estimated 10,000 to 18,000 people in the United States each year, with some cases not reported to health authorities. The number of people with Legionnaires’ disease grew by nearly four times from 2000 to 2014, the CDC stated. People can get sick when they breathe in mist or accidentally take water into their lungs containing the bacteria. It can be treated with antibiotics, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Legionella bacteria are found naturally in the environment, growing best in warm water, and can be found in showerheads and faucets, hot tubs, cooling towers, hot water tanks, decorative fountains or plumbing systems in large buildings, according to Georgia Department of Health.

“Testing of the property happened last week, and the hotel has voluntarily moved ahead with precautionary remedial activities while awaiting results,” Peduzzi said.

Symptoms of the Disease

Legionnaires’ begins with a patient feeling tired and weak, according to the educational organization Legionella.org. Other common symptoms include coughing, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, headaches, muscle aches, chest pain and shortness of breath. The incubation period—the time it takes for symptoms to appear after a person is infected with the bacteria causing the disease—is from 2 to 10 days.

Described as a “severe, often lethal, form of pneumonia,” Legionnaires’ can lead to treatment in an intensive care unit, according to Legionella.org. Some symptoms may be long-term: One study showed that three-quarters of survivors continued to feel tired, 66% had neurologic symptoms and 63% had neuromuscular symptoms months after their diagnosis.

Scientists dubbed the illness “Legionnaires’ disease” following an outbreak in Philadelphia in 1976, largely among people attending a state convention of the American Legion.

In Georgia, 189 cases of Legionnaires’ disease were reported in 2018, and 172 cases in 2017.

The CNN Wire and The Associated Press contribute to this article.